November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM


(Page 4 of 9) gives parents as many tools as possible to find just the right gift from among its 5,000 offerings. It does not just break down gift suggestions based on a few simple criteria, such as gender and age. Rather, it offers 27 product categories to begin an internal search. And it offers the “Gift Wizard” where shoppers can describe a child’s interests and get suggestions. There are even categories for children with special needs, toys for teachers and toys for home schools.

And it’s not just enough to have a lot of categories. They must be useful ones. “Fatbrain’s categories are relevant and they don’t overlap very often,” says Jessica Jourdan, senior research scientist for Perspective Sciences, which specializes in user experience testing. provides lots of other helpful information, such as showing the country of origin to satisfy parents’ concerns about product safety and environmental impact. Shoppers are also told how many items remain in stock so that they know if they need to buy an item right away.

“We are the toy store that customers come to if they want something unique,” says Mark Carson, CEO. “But there is hesitancy by customers to shop online. We try to set our customers’ minds at ease.”

Jourdan was also impressed with the site’s product ratings services. While many web sites put customer ratings averages on product pages, also includes them on the product category pages so shoppers can quickly compare the popularity of items within each category. On the product page, they get the specifics of what makes a product so popular.

Additionally, Jourdan says makes good use of video to show children actually playing with toys, a valuable feature to help parents to understand the appeal of a toy and see firsthand how it works. Back to top

Stick ‘em up
Is it wall art? Is it a way to make a personal statement? Either way,’s flagship product-life-sized, stick-on photo images of sports figures and celebrities-is a new-to-many concept that can take some explaining. The site accomplishes that with strong product imagery and rich media applications that answer shoppers’ questions by essentially bringing the product to life, with a concept video showing images leaping out of a photograph and onto a wall in a room setting.

An installation video shows how the product is best applied to the wall, while FAQs address anything else the videos don’t cover. It’s all key to the fact that while the life-sized wall graphics are many customers’ idea of fun, others who may figure into the purchase decision-moms and wives with ideas about bedroom or family room décor, for instance-might need convincing.

“It may be that some of the people interested in the product aren’t always the buyers,” says Mary Brett Whitfield, TNS Retail Forward senior vice president and Fathead customer. “The web site does a good job of overcoming some of the objections those individuals might have-it explains that it’s easy to put up, easy to take down. Being able to see it in a room environment in the video really helps.”

In fact, Whitfield believes the web site likely excels at such explanation over the presentation of the product in retail stores where it’s also available.

This year Fathead extended the franchise with the introduction of Fathead Tradeables, packs of 5” x 7” peel-and-stick sports and celebrity figures, and a customizable, team-themed recliner dubbed “furniture for fans.” It’s also added dynamic imaging technology from Adobe Scene7 to further improve product imaging capacity.

“Many shoppers don’t fully grasp the Fathead concept until they physically receive the merchandise,” says Michael Layne, director of Internet marketing at Fathead. “We wanted to present our products to give scale so our customers could visualize how their selections would look in the context of their work or living space.” Back to top

Just your style
How often does a homeowner renovate a bathroom or kitchen? Not very often, which means they rarely know the technical terms manufacturers use to describe faucets, or the jargon of interior designers.

But oftentimes the consumer has a picture in her head of what she wants her bathroom or kitchen to look like. At, she can find the hardware and lighting that fit into that picture.

A click on the “Shop By Style” tab on the top navigation bar takes her to a page that features eight home décor looks, such as traditional, contemporary, Victorian and rustic. For each term, there is a photo of a kitchen or bathroom done in that style, along with thumbnails of appropriate faucets, door hardware, lighting fixtures and sinks. There are also links to all faucets or sinks of that description, or all plumbing, hardware or lighting products of that style.

The concept came from the experience Daniel Auer and his partner David Berman gained running a bricks-and-mortar plumbing showroom. “A lot of people had no idea what they needed, but they knew what they wanted it to look like when it’s done,” says Auer. Often they just wanted to see products that fit that look.

But not everyone is the same, says Auer, a partner in Decorative Product Source, which operates That’s why visitors also can shop the site’s assortment of 100,000 SKUs by product category, brand and price.

“With a significant number of SKUs, it is often hard to present the right merchandise to your visitors,” says Ethan E. Giffin, founder of e-commerce consulting firm Groove Commerce. He likes the way category pages let consumers narrow choices by finish, style, price or application. Such guided navigation can improve conversion rate and average order value, Giffin says.

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